What is Church?
Much has been said about the definition of church and its meaning. Many scholars, theologians and saints have debated this subject. Is it about a building? Is it about believers spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to others? Could it be that it is about us believing in our hearts that Christ was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9-10) and that He existed. What is the Church and how does it apply to us?
In Bishop Dr. Bernie Wade’s book, “How to Be a Christian Without Going to Church” he breaks down the historical account of the New Testament church and brings the concept of people gathering together for the purpose of encouragement, fellowship and remembering the sacrifice Christ made so we could be free from our sins. As he sums up his logical theories at the end of the book, he challenges the believer into thinking outside the box. This box he describes is one made of brick and mortar, with relics of tradition on the walls and in the ceremonies it contains; but he takes us outside of this box into the work of a true believer. For the true believer understands kingdom principles and knows that the real church was not built by human hands…but through the faith one holds in their heart.
As I closed in on the last page of this interesting and factual book my mind was swimming with facts that I wanted to share. The Holy Spirit had me stirred in different directions that left my mind rambling with an itch to shout out these new found revelations. Therefore, I will spare you my re-inventing what Bishop Wade has so eloquently proved in his writing, but I will share what the Holy Spirit gave me while reading this book.
Should we Gather?
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (KJV). How do you take this scripture to mean? Do you see it as the scriptural defense to reason why one should be in a church building? Or could you possibly see it as how necessary it is for us to have the comfort and encouragement of fellow believers, the Ecclesia. Now let’s throw a curve into this scripture stated by my instructor in Christ, Bishop Dr. Bernie Wade: “Consider this, if all the churches were locked shut or were destroyed tomorrow would that force you to stop being a Christian?” Bishop Wade goes on to reason that although this question is seldom thought of, its truth is a reality for people in some countries. However, what would be your reaction if we were no longer allowed to meet in public places? What if we faced persecution for meeting together; would you remain a Christian?
The Apostle Paul encouraged the believers, according the Clark’s Commentary, not to give up meeting together because they were under heavy persecution. Some people had stopped meeting because of their fear of being caught and sentenced to death. This scripture along with 1 Thessalonians 2:1, therefore encourages us to continue to meet together regardless of whether we meet in a community building or in the home of a fellow believer…we are still Christians either way.
The question still remains: where would you place your faith should you not be able to meet publicly? Would you still meet in the home of a fellow believer if you knew your life would be at stake if you were found out? Should you make the decision to ‘fall away’ would that not be considered apostasy?
Hebrews 10:26-27 says, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries” (KJV). I don’t believe Paul was talking about the casual backslider in this scripture; but he was talking about those who turn away from Christ and the blood that atoned for their sins, there would be no remedy…just a fearful judgment and fiery indignation. Jesus even stated in the Book of Mark Chapter fourteen, that he would destroy the church built with human hands and in three days he would build another one (v. 58)…for the kingdom of God is not in a church made with human hands it is within us.
Is Christ divided?
So saints, let me ask you another question: Is someone still a Christian just because they don’t go to church? Are they a Christian just because they don’t go to YOUR church? If you agree with these statements then there is another question that Bishop Wade proposed in his book: “Is Christ divided?”
1Corinthians 13:1 says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (KJV). We weren’t meant to be divided into different sects or denominations – we were meant to be in unity…one Lord, one faith, one baptism keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-5). Even Paul, in Galatians 3, had to bring this body of believers to reality by asking them why they were falling for the works of men (the flesh) instead of acting in faith, in unity. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (KJV).
Salvation is free and praise God for this, but there are some out there who cannot come to a place of worship but, who need the body to come see them. There are those out there who suffer things greater than we’ll ever know who need encouragement. There are those in darkness who need a light to be brought into their darkness. Don’t go to church…BE THE CHURCH!
Where is the Kingdom of God?
“Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, Which is the first commandment of all? Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL, THE LORD OUR GOD, THE LORD IS ONE. AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. So the scribe said to Him, Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God. But after that no one dared question Him” (Mark 12:28-34 KJV).
After a drilling from the hard-hearted Sadducees, Jesus was questioned by a young scribe concerning the greatest commandment. Jesus’ answer rang loudly in the heart of the scribe. So loudly in fact that as he repeated what was said back to Jesus it penetrated into this man’s soul. Jesus’ answer surely blessed him as He told him “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Perhaps other thoughts went through his mind as he looked around from the place where he stood. What is this kingdom? Is it a grand palace that is close by? Is it a place in this heaven that I hear the priests talk about? Just what is this ‘kingdom of God’ that he speaks of? He said I wasn’t far from it…so it must be near, and if I keep these commandments then I am close to it.
So, could it be that when Jesus said “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10b) that he talked about bringing the realities of the Power of God to the earth? If this is true then there is no excuse for living a less than holy life while we dwell here on earth (1 Peter 1:15-16). We are to rid ourselves of the ways of the world and our worldly lifestyle. When one embraces this concept we see that the kingdom of God IS near…as near as in our hearts and we are expected to live this kingdom lifestyle.
The kingdom of God doesn’t reside in a building called the church. It resides in us…Holy and acceptable unto God… Paul said, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 KJV). “We need to understand that this reality of the kingdom is for us in the here and now.” – David Tait
Of course the gathering together and being the church is necessary. It is just as necessary as being the church at home, in the work place, or in the market place. It’s the place for spiritual growth and nourishment. It’s the place where gifts are discovered and encouraged. It’s the place where one learns to be the church and then learns how to take it into the world to teach and disciple others.
Although these may seem as ramblings to some, if they are broken down, they are nuggets that can be slowly digested as food for one’s soul. The church was never intended to be about a building, it was about the kingdom of God within us, it is about community living and giving. It’s about LOVE! It’s not about what denomination you belong to, but it IS about Kingdom living…holiness…to be set apart…not by buildings and denominations, but apart from the world.
I don’t want to take any questions asked here light heartedly thinking we could never be a nation where we weren’t free to openly worship and talk about Jesus Christ. Some of us already know what it’s like to face persecution from people we love. When it comes down to the wire…where will your faith lie? What will you say? Where will your church be? “Church the day draws near that childish thinking will perish and one will draw from the meat of the Word. For unto this your lamps remain full.” – Lea Bates
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (KJV) says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”